“The Rise and Fall of the Shi’Ar Empire, Chapter Three: Vulcan’s Progress”
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Clayton Henry (p), Mark Morales (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: Vulcan, a.k.a. Gabriel Summers, is really angry. In space.
Comments: Brubaker takes a slightly different tack in this third part of his ongoing space opera, leaving behind the team in pursuit to explore what Vulcan’s been doing in Shi’ar space all this time.
What he’s been doing, despite all the many crimes of the Shi’ar as galactic warlords, is pure evil. Thanks to House of M, he’s powered up to near Phoenix levels. Thanks to Charles, among other factors, he’s woefully out of touch with what’s happened in that Empire since his period of dormancy. He needs answers, and he means to get them by force. Brutal space battles pit Shi’ar warships against a loan, godlike being flying through space on his own power, who is abusing his mighty gifts mercilessly (though not quite insanely, as Vulcan is rational enough to plan his attacks with finesse).
He conquers a Shi’ar captain, and commandeers his ship to speed towards the Shi’ar throne world, Chandilar, destroying stargates along the way. Interestingly, both Deathbird and Lilandra are mentioned as targets. Emperor D’Ken, however, is comatose. One can’t doubt that the Starjammers (and Gabriel’s father, Corsair) will play some sort of role before the end. In fact it looks like a veritable legion of other X-Men antagonists lie in wait as well.
So, though slightly off concept for his new team epic, Brubaker loses little momentum this issue. He’s just showing us another front of the same battle, and cluing us in to how serious the other Summers brother is. That he resembles a generic super-hero in his red and blue costume adds an air of corruption to the proceedings, as his actions are anything but heroic. The ferocity of his cruelty is intense, the best sequence coming in a violent interrogation with a Shi’ar galaxian, floating in space amongst the debris of his ship and completely at Vulcan’s mercy.
Henry handles this sequence well, capturing the vulnerability of his enemies before Vulcan’s rage. But he fudges the long-held conceit that all the Shi’ar spaceships look like giant insects, opting instead for a less interesting marine motif.
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